Like Kevin Bacon said, dancing is not a crime. And according to Sarah Tressler, it's not a legal reason to fire someone.
Tressler made national news in March when the Houston Press outed her for working as a stripper in addition to her job as a society reporter for the Houston Chronicle. Tressler chronicled her exploits on Twitter and in a blog called "Diary of an Angry Stripper," not using her real name, but posting pictures where her face was visible. Tressler was summarily fired by the Chronicle for failing to disclose her other employment.
On Thursday, Tressler joined famed attorney Gloria Allred in Los Angeles for a press conference, announcing that Allred would be representing Tressler and had filed a gender discrimination claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
"Couldn't ask for anyone better by my side ... So grateful," tweeted Tressler.
In a statement provided to CultureMap, Allred said, "Sarah’s work as a dancer is lawful and is not a crime. It does not, has not and will not affect her ability to perform her job as a journalist."
Allred explained that Tressler, 30, started performing as an exotic dancer when she was 22 because she needed the money to help pay for college. Her only other job at that time was as a barista at Starbucks earning $7.25 an hour.
When she danced she did so as an independent contractor and she was never an employee of any club.
Therefore, when she was asked by the Houston Chronicle about her prior employment, she did not list dancing, since she was not an employee of any clubs.
Sarah feels that when she was terminated, that termination was sexually discriminatory in violation if the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
Most exotic dancers are female, and therefore to terminate an employee because they had previously been an exotic dancer would have an adverse impact on women, since it is a female dominated occupation. Terminations like this would also discourage women from trying to improve their lives.
Sarah also believes that it seems highly unlikely that men who are independent contractors have been terminated if they have failed to list in Houston Chronicle employment applications work which they have done legally."
Allred added that when not working for the Chronicle and at the University of Houston, where she was an instructor, Tressler had volunteered 200 hours of her time in 2010-11 at University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.
Allred describes herself as a feminist discrimination attorney, and is known for working on high profile cases, including Nicole Brown Simpson's family during the trial of O.J. Simpson, Scott Peterson's mistress-turned-witness Amber Frey and most recently Miss Canada finalist Jenna Talackova after she was disqualified by the Miss Universe pageant for being transgender.
In a statement provided to CultureMap, Tressler said:
I felt very lucky to have landed a job as a reporter for the Houston Chronicle. I liked the work and felt that I had good editors who provided me with opportunities to cover stories in Houston that might otherwise have been overlooked.
I was very upset that I was fired, because I had been told by many editors that I was doing a good job. I was covering high society and also doing general assignments, human interest stories, men’s and women’s fashion and other stories.
I don’t believe that I should have been terminated because of a claim that I did not disclose on my employment application that I worked as an exotic dancer. There was no question on the form that covered my dancing. I answered the questions on the form honestly.
I had demonstrated that I was able to do my job as a reporter very well and I would have been happy to continue to do it had I not been terminated.
I plan to continue with my career in journalism. I earned an M.A. in Journalism and have been an instructor in writing for print and digital media for the School of Communications at the University of Houston.
I feel that women should not be denied other employment because they have worked as exotic dancers.
Some young women will use dancing as a way to make ends meet while they study to prepare for the career that they hope to be able to have for the rest of their lives. These women should not have to live in fear that once they acquire a position in the career that they have worked hard to achieve, that their past work experience as a dancer will jeopardize that position.
My job as a dancer was legal and I don’t understand why I should be punished because I did it.
I look forward to the outcome of the EEOC’s investigation."
In a brief article on the suit, The Houston Chronicle declined comment.